Dog looking at a plate of fish.

Being a dog owner introduces a whole new world of smells into your life. From the sweet, skunky scent of puppy breath to “frito feet” and worse, there’s no arguing that dogs are loving, generous, and stinky animals. Sometimes it’s not clear when stinkiness is a simple hygiene problem or when it requires a further look. An unexplained fishy smell coming from your dog can be one of those cases.

But Why Fish?

Although not uncommon, this particular odor is definitely peculiar. There are a few common reasons why your dog might be giving off a fishy odor, like:

  • Your dog rolled in something outside
  • Hormonal changes when a female dog is in heat
  • A symptom of a bacterial or yeast infection
  • Anal glands are impacted

What Are Anal Glands?

Anal sacs are sweat glands that excrete a smelly, oily fluid. While this is a normal and healthy process, anal gland secretions have a distinct smell, which is often described as fishy. This is the reason dogs sniff each others’ butts–the odor from anal glands is unique to each individual dog.The scent gives dogs information about each other including diet, temperament, and health status.They can even remember if they’ve met before.

Anal Gland Problems

When a dog poops, the secretions are passed onto the feces. If there isn’t enough pressure to empty the glands, they can become swollen or impacted. In addition to a fishy smell, there are other signs that your dog could be having problems with their anal glands. If your dog scoots across the floor or licks their butt repeatedly, it’s time for a check-up with the vet.

Impacted anal glands typically need to be expressed manually, which is a messy, stinky, and potentially painful process. For these reasons, it’s a procedure that is best done by a veterinary professional. If the glands are infected or ruptured, a vet will be able to diagnose and treat the problem, along with emptying the built-up fluid. 

Preventing Future Issues

Unfortunately for everyone involved, anal gland problems in dogs can reoccur. While they can’t always be prevented, there are some steps that can help:

  • Feed your dog a healthy diet
  • Be sure your dog gets regular exercise and is a healthy weight
  • Offer fresh clean water
  • Consider fish oil or fiber supplements 
  • Schedule regular wellness checks

To keep your dog healthy and happy throughout their lifespan, the team at All Pet Animal Hospital is here for you! Call us at 724-444-6600 or schedule a visit.